Footsteps echoed along the hallway in the Police Administration Building as a guard escorted twenty-three-year-old Karima Thomas out of the female unit.
Even in the nondescript gray sweatsuit she had been issued for her departure, Karima's voluptuous form showed through. An ample bosom tapering down to a tiny waist. Round hips giving way to delicately muscled thighs. Gracefulness marking her every movement.
Her face, absent of makeup as it had been throughout her six-month prison stint, was radiant. But beneath her beauty was a smoldering anger that had grown stronger with each day she'd spent behind bars.
A buzzer sounded, and the steel door slid open. Karima turned to the guard, who nodded. And then she walked out into the gray October morning. She looked toward the cloudy sky and the first raindrop she'd felt in six months fell against her face.
She smiled for a moment. Then she caught sight of the man who was waiting for her, and her smile became a grimace. He was sitting in a cherry-red Mercedes, leaning back in the cream-colored leather driver's seat with his lips fixed in a grin.
His eyes were as she remembered them. Intense. Strong. Observant. With those eyes, he could see into her soul, where desire burned bright as the blood that rushed to her cheeks.
Those were the eyes that had captured her heart two years before, when he'd watched her from his car as she crossed at a red light on her way to Temple University's Annenberg Hall.
She still remembered the way his gaze had followed her every movement. She remembered staring back at him, then losing her concentration and dropping her books in the middle of the street.
He'd gotten out of his car to help her. And as they both reached out to gather the books, their hands touched and a jolt went through her. She knew even then that he was dangerous. So dangerous that she had to have him.
In the months that followed, she allowed him to show her the streets surrounding the campus, the places she'd never bothered to see. He showed her his town house in Society Hill, and a nightlife she'd never known.
Before long, she'd given him her virginity, and along with it, she'd given him her heart. College became an afterthought. So did her family, her friends, and her life. By the time she learned he was a dealer, she no longer cared about anything but his touch. And she was willing to do anything to have it.
She learned the rules of the streets while shuttling drugs, hiding guns, telling lies, and moving cash. She learned to ride or die. So much so that when a narcotics task force investigation threatened Duane's drug enterprise, she offered herself as a sacrifice and took the fall in his place.
Now she was face-to-face with him again. Watching him as he sat in his car looking much the same as he did when they'd first met.
Copyright © 2006 by Sola Productions Solomon Jones is the Essence bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novels The Bridge, Ride or Die, and Pipe Dream, and the short story collection Keeping Up With The Jones. He is a spoken-word artist whose debut CD is titled Wisdom, and a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Philadelphia Weekly. Jones teaches creative writing at Temple University and serves on the board of the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness. He lives in Philadelphia with his family, and is currently at work on his next novel.